Adam’s Top 5 Video Games of 2015

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be sharing our top 5s of 2015, from everyone who writes here at The Lost Lighthouse. This time Adam will go through his favourite 5 video games of the year.

I’m taking a quick break from the depths of writing my PhD thesis to write about some of the things I actually cared about this year. This time it’s my favourite video games released in 2015. Of the various things my misguided attempt at a doctoral level qualification has taken from me, the spare time to actually play video games is probably the most felt. Also video games are expensive and I’m incredibly broke. As such, I’ve only actually played five games this yeah (at least that came out in 2015. I also played the incredible Transistor). So this was really just an exercise in picking which order they go in for me. All of these games were played on PS4.

5. Fallout 4 (Bethesda Softworks)

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The above is part of the reason why Bethesda’s latest installment of everybody’s favourite huge, sprawling post-apocalypse sandbox game is only number 5 on my list. After months of rumours and speculation, details of a new Fallout began to emerge and in November it was finally released. Now due to my heavy work load right now and general state of being very busy (and leaving my PS4 in London over Christmas), I haven’t finished the main story yet. I have however pumped a lot of time into the game, completing a lot of side missions and doing a large amount of world exploration.

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Let’s talk about that world, as a way of kicking off with the good about the game. The world is stunning, as long as you look at it from a distance. While the post-apocalypse trope of a colour palette heavy in browns and greys is definitely present, ‘The Commonwealth’ is densely packed with a lot of interesting scenery and locations to interact with. The storyline so far has been relatively engaging. I don’t really care about my missing son, but the shadowy Institute is intriguing and the return of certain organisations on unprecedented scales is an interesting inclusion. The world really lives through the side missions though, many of which are not only engaging but incredibly enjoyable too (my favourite so far is The Silver Shroud).  The combat mechanics are unchanged for the most part, so the V.A.T.S. system is back and still a lot of fun.

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Now for what I don’t like, and I’m just going to rattle through them. Feel free to discuss them in the comments! The UI is not great, and any changes have not improved things from Fallout 3 or New Vegas. The graphics, while not the be all and end all of a game, should really be better at this point especially for the character models. The dialogue system, previously a big part of Fallout, has been stripped back to make you feel like a passenger in what is largely otherwise a shooter, rather than a participant in an RPG. I have yet to see the point in settlements, and the user interface in building and interacting with a settlement is horrible, likely the reason why I have no desire to spend any more time doing it. While I do enjoy the crafting aspect for weapons and armour, having this and the base construction in the game means that almost every piece of junk in Fallout is worth keeping, and every location contains more crap than you and your companion can carry. As such, I’ve spent probably about 40% of my playtime hefting junk around and either selling or scraping it.

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But for me the biggest issue with Fallout 4 is the glitches and bugs. There has been a lot of comment online about this, which largely seems to boil down to this being something you expect and accept in a Bethesda game. I don’t really see it like that, and this is probably the first time I’ve really had a problem with it. With limited time and money to play games these days, having a full price game be released as a bit of a glitchy mess doesn’t hold water with me. Weapons disappearing, enemies floating, corpses janking around ruining the desolate quiet of a vault. This is why it bothers me. These games are about immersion, and every time I see my companion get stuck in a wall or I fall through the world it takes me completely out of it. Sure they’re working on fixes all the time, but I’m reaching the point where I want games to just be finished properly when they come out.

 

4. The Order 1886 (Ready at Dawn)

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Speaking of a game that was finished, The Order 1886 was the first game I played this year (I reviewed it over here). I liked it a lot. The gameplay was a bit heavy and reminiscent of a clunkier Gears of War, but it wasn’t bad. The story was interesting, succinct and well-paced and while it ultimately didn’t quite deliver on the promise of alternate steampunk Knights of the Round Table supernatural beast hunters, with the very few instances of actually fighting monsters either shockingly easy and repetitive or relegated to quick time events, while the rest of the game was spent shooting ‘rebels’ and other humans for reasons that were never made abundantly clear other than waving around the word ‘conspiracy’, it was a satisfying plot that I enjoyed.

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The game wasn’t particularly long, in fact many said it was far too short for a full price game. I clocked in around 7 hours for my playthrough, and I was fairly defensive about the length in my original review, while also decrying the debate as generally oversimplified. However, since I completed it I really haven’t felt any compulsion to revisit the game. I’m not really sure what that says about it or it’s value. Saying that, it remains the best looking game I’ve played so far on the latest console generation. Despite it being a largely drab and grey trudge through Victorian England, it was stunning to look at and I really enjoyed it.

 

3. Mad Max (Avalanche Studios)

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This one snuck up on me, as it would probably have totally passed me by if I hadn’t been swept up in the Fury Road fever this year. Instead, I actively made the decision to pick up this new Mad Max game over Metal Gear Solid V, due to it’s reasonably positive if not stellar reviews and the fact that I was fairly sure it would be an easier game to pick up and put back down for short gaming stints, making it better for taking breaks from working and avoiding getting so engrossed that I waste hours on it. Fortunately I turned out to be right about that, but more fortunate was how much I ended up loving this game for all of it’s simplicity.

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Set before Fury Road, with a somewhat tenuous link to characters in the film, you play as Max after having the Interceptor stolen and being left for dead. You ally yourself with a mechanic, and slowly modify a rusty frame to an armoured ‘Magnum Opus’ capable of driving across the Plains of Silence to freedom. The game is another big sandbox environment, as you drive around finding scrap for your car, fighting off raiding parties, taking down War Boy camps with your fists and limited shotgun ammo and helping your allies thrive, while trying to outrun sand storms and stop Lord Scrotus and his minions. In essence, you just drive around and blow stuff up. And it is incredibly fun. The game’s only real let down is that it is very repetitive. The map is studded with scavenging locations, and each of the 4 allies you meet along the game require the same things from you. A lot of it is extraneous, but useful for completing the game. That said, there are some very fun and unique missions, like driving through the Underdune – a network of tunnels that was once an airport, now home to the nocturnal Buzzards.

 

2. Bloodborne (FromSoftware)

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Second from top for me this year is the PS4 exclusive Bloodborne from ‘Souls’ creators FromSoftware. A grueling, Groundhog Day style trial-and-error endurance experience where you spend most of your time dying. A lot. But it’s the sort of game that makes you think tactically, commands your full attention, tests your ability and ultimately rewards you for it. As a hunter, you wade through scores of the crazed residents of the town of Yharnam, feral beasts and huge, hulking monsters. Each time you finally figure out how to beat a boss and ‘Prey Slaughtered’ pops up on your screen, you feel an immense satisfaction and a real feeling of earning it.

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The game itself is beautiful. Well, beautiful if you like heavily gothic surroundings and grotesque monsters. Halfway through the game you enter a sort of nightmare realm, while everything takes on a deeply Lovecraftian slant, including horrific beasts that cling to the huge buildings around you that you can’t attack… but get close enough and they can attack you. My flatmates described this as the game they’ve enjoyed watching me play the most, I expect in part because of the surroundings, but likely also due to my reaction to the difficulty level of the game – swearing my head off every time I felt like I was unjustly killed, even thought it was probably due to me not paying enough attention. It happened a lot.

 

1. Arkham Knight (Rocksteady Studios)

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My favourite game of the year is likely a little predictable for me. As a huge Batman fan, I’ve always been extremely impressed by the Arkham games (at least the Rocksteady ones) for not only capturing the ethos and feeling of a mixture of the best Batman comics and Batman: The Animated Series, but also managing to create gameplay that makes you really feel like you are being the Batman. Easy to control combat that looks brutal yet elegant, stealth that combines technology and fear to take down foes, and detective work to put together a case. This third installment from Rocksteady is their final Arkham game, though there isn’t a doubt in my mind that WB will be back with more.

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Scarecrow is working with the mysterious ‘Arkham Knight’ and his militia army, and using an overwhelming force and seemingly hundreds of drone tanks they bring Gotham to it’s knees. Batman must prevent them from poisoning the city with fear toxin, while figuring out the identity of the Knight and putting a stop to their plans. Along with a few new tricks, like the hugely satisfying fear takedown, Bats also finally has the Batmobile – less a car in this incarnation and more of the personal tank of the Christopher Nolan films, able to speed around at huge speeds before transforming into a combat mode complete with missiles, stun guns and a huge cannon – to be deployed against drone tanks only. While feeling hilariously overpowered, the Batmobile has been successfully deployed in much the same way as the hand-to-hand combat was for the first time in Arkham Asylum – it’s very easy to feel like a total badass with it. The one drawback? I get the feeling Rocksteady were very, very proud of their new toy. So much so that the Batmobile is shoehorned into missions and situations that feel totally unnatural, to the point that it is essentially overused.

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The main plot is an exercise in escalation, in an understandable trajectory from the first game until now. But it’s a very enjoyable superhero tale with some very well deployed twists, some less well deployed twists (I may have seen the identity of the Arkham Knight coming a mile off due to my familiarity with the comics, but it’s telegraphed very clumsily and out of nowhere a couple of hours before) and a huge climax. The side quests are even better than they were in Arkham City, once again drawing from the extensive rogues gallery (some of which were extensions of side plots set up in that game). For every one that fell a little flat, like the Hush sequence, there were excellent scenarios like ‘The Perfect Crime’.

The only issue I have with the extra content like this, which was the same as the previous games, is that while I can suspend my disbelief in general for superhero antics, it is physically and temporally impossible for all of this to occur in one night. Equally unbelievable is that with the city in such dire peril, you’d take some time out of saving it to capture Man-Bat or train Azrael. Maybe leave them to tomorrow Bruce? Or even just have the plot take place over a couple of days. Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight go to ground for a day or two, and while the Batcomputer checks up on some leads you start cleaning up some other problems in the city? Whatever. It’s really a tiny and slightly pointless complaint, really just brought about by overthinking things. Ultimately, this was a great game. Unless you tried to play it on PC.

 

Indie Comic Review – The Kings of the Wastelands #1 (Hound Comics)

Our pal Kit  reviews comics for us sometimes! This is one of those times.

“Hold on to your britches partners! We are in for a bumpy ride!” – Gib the talking turtle.

Hound comics are up again! This time with a review of The Kings of the Wastelands! This was written, pencilled and inked by Delbert Hewitt Jr (now that’s dedication!) and coloured by Ross A Campbell, for pages 1-4, then Juan Marquez.

So, what are we looking at here? We have a post-apocalyptic setting, talking animals and no people. Well I’m game, that’s for sure. In this world there was some kind of explosion, not gone into in this first issue, that seemingly left every human dead, or at least out of Vegas and resulted in the animals walking around on two feet and speaking, wearing clothes, fighting and struggling for survival.

We begin with a very colourful front cover, a dog is flying through the air about to stab a gigantic hippo. This is a good lead in to the art in this issue. Every page is full of colour and detail, I didn’t actually notice the change of colouring styles during the comic until I reread it for this review. There are some minor differences in the colouring, mostly in the sky when you look for it. Otherwise the change in colourist is seamless. As for the art itself Hewitt has done a very good job. His style is seemingly simplistic but he packs in a lot of detail and expression into his characters.

Speaking of his characters, each of the cast appearing in this issue is full of personality. Jacob, our hero is a loner dog who’s moping around the wasteland and out for revenge. The cat… isn’t actually named… but is clearly a dependant, openly needing to be part of a group, unlike most actual cats. And then there’s Gib, the awesome, old, car driving, apparently southern turtle. Plus a whole host of bad guys for the gang to fight, varying from lizard nomads, to panthers, to Hunter the tiger – the apparent antagonist and finally the Dragon… or hippo… dragon does sound more intimidating, but damn, I would not like to fight that hippo myself.

The story follows Jacob’s integration into a loose group with the cat and Gib, whilst seeking revenge on Hunter the tiger, who killed his family. There is no mention of what’s happened to the humans, or why increased intellect apparently means animals care about wearing clothes now, but this isn’t a comic that feels hugely deep as such. It’s a very fun ride for a first issue, successfully setting the stakes, the good guys and the bad guys whilst packing in some kick ass fights, but it doesn’t feel like there’s any hidden meaning or much to stay up discussing in the early hours of the morning to it. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, not every comic has to be deep and philosophical and it’s refreshing to read about a berserk warrior dog stab everything it comes across unapologetically.

Final Verdict

This is a fun start to a promising series, if you want an action comic with fantastic fight scenes or if you like Mad Max, but kinda wished they were all talking animals then this is for you. The art is also fantastic and the author and colourists should feel proud of what they’ve made here. You can order The King of the Wastelands #1 here or digitally (with a preview) here!

Final Score – 8.5 lizard nomads out of 10.

Indie Comics Review – The Revival #1 (Hound Comics)

Our pal Kit sometimes write for the site! This is one of those times.

 

*This is the first review from a spotlight we’re going to be doing on Hound Comics, a private publishing company with their own ongoing comic series and web series. We’re going to be reviewing first issues of some of their comic series over the next few weeks. You can buy issue #1 of ‘The Revival’ here.*

 

“It’s been five years since the war began. Three since the war ended. And longer than anyone can remember since anyone had a decent cup of coffee.” – The Revival describing my idea of hell.

Time for our first review of a Hound Comics comic! This time I’ll be getting my teeth into The Revival: The Red Age, written and drawn by Tom Kyzivat. Why did I pick this one? To be honest I just saw the title and thought it sounded cool. For my review I’ll use the following criteria:

  • The Concept,
  • The Plot
  • The Characters,
  • The Artwork.

What we will be getting into, as you may imagine from the quote is a post-apocalyptic world where a rag tag bunch of soldiers of circumstance struggle for survival. Also, there’s no more good coffee. Hell, I wouldn’t last a day without my regular caffeine fix, I’d be screwed!

The Concept: As I’ve already said this is a post-apocalyptic set up, there’s been some kind of large scale war (global I assume?) that’s left the world blighted and any survivors just scraping by. The first page describes Patriarch, some kind of mysterious authoritative figure who it seems people listened to. Patriarch is now dead. This concept itself doesn’t get picked up too much more during this first comic, which I like, it adds an air of mystery to whatever’s happened to this world and leaves you wanting more.

The first page also sets up a bit of a magic vs technology deal for this world, which I imagine may play out a little like Saga. As I love Saga, this is a good thing. Again, this isn’t picked up too much during this first issue, but it does help set your expectations and add a little flavour to the world.

As for the characters it’s the scrappy crew doing their best to get by in a desolate world. Their dynamic very much feels like Firefly, which I’m very sure provided some inspiration for this.

For a concept score. 8.5/10.

The Plot: As with many comic book the first few pages are spent introducing first the world, and second the lead characters. This is done well I think, the world is shown from the perspective of the main character (Red) which both fleshes her out and sets up the world itself. Once you get a feel for who’s who the team set out on a raiding mission to pick up supplies. You discover bits of the world as they go, you’re introduced to ‘Cabbage Heads’ – a clone army of The Engine, the hopelessness of the world – delivered quite naturally throughout the comic book. The exposition is generally done well, a lot is put across to the reader without being too in your face or ‘here is why things are like this’.

The story itself is pretty simple for a single issue, which is natural for a first comic, it leaves you wanting to know more about the big questions and gives you time to get to know the characters.

Plot score then, it’s a solid start. 8/10.

The Characters: There’s quite a few you’re introduced too this issue so many of them don’t get too much more development than their clear archetype. Even so you do get at least a little time to get a feel for who each of them are.

Red – Our captain and main character. You get to know her pretty well over the first few pages while she describes the world. She seems to be serious in all that she does and apparently has a taste for coffee (worth at least an extra point for me!). She could go either way, with an interesting back story and some decent challenges to come along she could end up an excellent character, though there is a risk she could end up the boring one if she isn’t explored properly. For Red I’d say 8/10.

Tater – the Engineer who probably features the least in the comic. He’s a background character for the first issue but seems to be a bit older than the rest, providing a bit of a father figure to the crew it seems. He’s off to a solid enough start, but there’s much more to go here, so for Tater I’m thinking 6.5/10.

Woods – the Scout. I very much like his design, he’s been given a unique way of talking and I think a lot of personality is packed into both his appearance and his actions. He’ll likely be the butt monkey for jokes and stuff going forward but that’s often needed in these sorts of stories. 8/10.

The Pessimist – her Lieutenant. For starters he’s a bear, bears are cool. He’s the muscle and serious one of the group. He has a cool design but like many of his archetype his stoic nature means we don’t know him too well yet. Still, he gets bonus points for being a bear. So 8/10.

Finally we have Rainbow – the demolitions expert, T&A, fourth wall-breaker and comic relief of the group. She does provide some much needed colour to the comic and it’s the sort of story where having a character who knows how to smile does make a positive impact. Unfortunately I felt it was done a bit too heavy handedly at times. Good in theory but maybe dial Rainbow down a little next time. 7/10

Character score – For an overall average: 7.5/10.

The Artwork: Overall the art very much gets the tone right, the world is bleak and browny-red, the characters look good, Rainbow does add some much needed colour (and enjoys doing it!). I also really like how the Cabbage Heads speak in bar codes. Unfortunately, the faces do look a little off at times I feel. Red’s nose just kinda bugs me…

Still, the art is solid overall. I’d say Art Score – 7/10.

Final Verdict

I enjoyed this comic. This is a good start to a series and leaves you wanting to know more. There are some minor character points I think need ironing out, but hopefully that’ll come with time/character development. There are some great ideas here and it’s worth checking out! The average is 7.75/10. I’ll bump that to 8!

Final Score – 8 Decent cups of coffee out of 10

 

Kit

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 3! Cybernetic Armour, Feral Vampires and Mythological Bad-Assesery (With a Dash of Romance)

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

Well it’s the time of the year where love and romantic themes are shoved down your throat wherever you go. It’s a day where you’ll find one half of the internet covered in soppy messages, hearts and flowers, while the other half complains about soppy messages, hearts and flowers. What it also leads to is writers using it as a lazy excuse for a theme for their material. With that in mind, you’ve guessed what this article’s theme is: Romance! Though each of these stories is great, even if romance isn’t your thing.

This will probably be going up on the site after Valentine’s Day itself. Sorry I didn’t get it up in time but I was busy eating bacon and playing video games inside a fort. I’m sure you all understand.

Romance is in nearly all of our literature in one way or another, be it an action hero winning the heart of the beautiful reporter they barely know, the loving old parents in a kid’s book, or the relationship that starts off so happy and joyful but ends in ruin and then there’s is also Twilight (unfortunately a fair bit of romance is kind of crap, so the less said about Twilight, the better). It has, of course, featured in some of the stories I’ve mentioned before – Another End to the Empire and Tom the Universe are both excellent and well worth checking out (also, read my previous articles with them in if you haven’t already.. go on, do it now…).

We’ll be covering a range of genres today, and to start we have Power Armour – A Love Story. Yes, it’s a love story, but if that isn’t your kind of thing then it has power armour, a dystopian future, time travel and assassins. I’m pretty sure at least one of those things should appeal to you! Then After the Cure – A Post-Post-Apocalyptic setting (is that the actual term for it? If not, it is now!), Vampires, dealing with the psychological trauma of having eaten people and, yes, a bit of romance. Finally another physical book – The Song of Achilles – Achilles, Ancient Greek myths, wars, gods and romance. Sounds like a pretty fun Friday night!

 

 

Power Armor: A Love Story

“I don’t mean to scare you, Mira, but where I come from there are . . . secret police. Unlike anything you can imagine. Cyborgs. Shapeshifters. I’d have no chance against one of them. Unless . . .” He showed the hint of a smile. “In the same lab was something else we’d been working on. This armor.”

Set in the modern day the story follows Anthony Blair and his attempt to save earth from the dystopian future he escaped from. This is a very dangerous possible future he must prevent, with incredibly high tech cyborgs and assassins, and he’s certain that at least one has been sent after him.

Believe it or not this is really the most romantic story we’ll check out this week. It does have a lot of cool sci-fi concepts, although these are used far more to drive the plot along, or as metaphors to communicate the story’s themes.

For those of you capable of feelings outside of apathy, whiskey and rage (yes, you can skip this part Adam) hopefully you’ll find this as adorable and lovely a story as I did. This is where some implied spoilers crop up, so skip forward a paragraph if you’d prefer to!

This story really emphasises the idea that you can meet someone in the strangest of situations, and that loving someone will mean you’ll have to let your defences down, meaning that those you care most about can hurt you more than anyone else. It also shows that actually this really is a risk worth taking.

If you, your partner or anyone really wants a good romantic story then they should check this out. If you feel like you’ll be forced to listen to something romantic but prefer sci-fi, this should provide enough mech suits and dystopian ideas for you to enjoy!

power armour

Author: David Barr Kirtley

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2013/02/14/drabblecast-272-power-armor-a-love-story/

 

 

After the Cure

“I was shot with the cure in the dark. Later, someone would tell me it was a Tuesday, but before the tranq dart I didn’t know such a thing existed. It was either day or night, hungry or sated, alive or dead.”

This story has some warnings:

  • If you don’t like horror, specifically feral vampires – move along.
  • If you don’t like graphic descriptions of gore – move along.
  • If you want a romantic sparkly vampire – seriously, move along.
  • The first 10 minutes of this recording is promoting a sponsored episode of the Drabblecast they eventually do (which one day I’ll include in one of these). You may want to skip this.

Right, with that out of the way, onto the review. This is a story about both a girl who’s survived a vampiric apocalypse and society, as it tries to rebuild itself. Vampires in this world are wild and feral. They live on instinct, eating and feasting on anyone they find. Anyone who survives a bite becomes one of them. Mankind has been fighting back though and they’re beginning to win, having developed a cure. The cure returns people from this monstrous state back to human, letting them return to a normal life. Well, that’s the theory at least.

In a world trying to rebuild itself we find that though Vale, our main character, survived the apocalypse, she didn’t make it through ‘pure’. She was turned into a monster and spent years hunting people, tearing flesh from bone. Now, she’s back to normal but life is not easy, as although the cure was meant to erase all her memories of her time infected, it hasn’t. To make matters worse, she was infected for so long that most of her pre-infection memories have gone. She barely knows who she was and, without name or identity, has to face a society where, just a short while ago, someone would have shot her on sight and many still might.

The story is focused on Vale coping with this trauma, trying to find a way for herself in this world, while dealing with the monster she feels is still inside her. She has killed and everyone knows it. It doesn’t matter to most people that she had no control over herself, or even a concept of self, at the time. It’s a very introspective tale, more of the narrative dealing with what she thinks of herself and her feelings.

I like how the story explores what might happen after a monster-based apocalypse and how society might fair. There’s plenty of fantastic stories set during an apocalypse, but if mankind wins, it either ends at that point. We just assume society rebuilds itself, all of the monsters die, or they return to normal with no apparent side effects.

There is some romance in this story, with Vale trying to rebuild some kind of life for herself (obviously, or it wouldn’t be on this list!). However, I feel that here the romance is a plot device within a horror story. If you want a short mushy tale, then scroll back up and click the link to Power Armour. If you want an excellent story, about someone trying to find their place in a dark world where monsters still roam, with no guarantee she’ll find anything or anyone, then this will be more your thing.

after the cure

Author: Carrie Ryan

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/08/02/drabblecast-33-cure/

 

 

The Song of Achilles

“Name one hero who was happy.”

I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family; Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason’s children and new wife were murdered by his old; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus’ back.
“You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
“I can’t.”
“I know. They never let you be famous AND happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.”
“Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this.
“I’m going to be the first.” 

Achilles. We all know the name, and the story of the invincible god-touched man who led the charge at the battle of Troy. There will be some small spoilers in this review, as I’ll assume that most people know the basics of this legend. If you do want the spoiler free summary though:

This book is excellent. Based on the myth, but from a different point of view (Yay! Perspective again!), it contains a very sweet love story as well. If you want some ass kicking, and one of the greatest heroes in any legend, then this is for you. If you want a love story about somebody who cares deeply for someone else then this is also for you.

Right, onto the details. This is a story where Achilles, although a huge element, is not our protagonist. This is the story of Patroclus. He always plays a huge part in the legend, being depicted as either Achilles’ closest friend or lover. This book portrays their relationship as a romantic one and shows us Patroclus’ side, instead of Achilles’, which most interpretations run with.

The book begins with their youth. As a child, Patroclus is innocent and caring, qualities that stay with him as he grows up. He acts as a moral guide to Achilles when he can, while supporting him as he fulfils the prophecies that will make him a hero. At the beginning, Achilles is faced with a choice – pursue a happy and simple life, or become one of the greatest heroes there has ever been, but at the price of his happiness.

Achilles is idealistic and hopeful, wanting to take on the world and make it his own. Patroclus deeply cares for Achilles and thinks the world of him. He shows us the side of Achilles the legends don’t speak of, his carefree and forever optimistic side. Achilles always expects things to work themselves out, largely thanks to the support of Patroclus, who helps him deal with the difficulties he faces.

There’s action as well. We see Achilles and Patroclus both kick ass on the battlefield, and also try their hands at the political games played at war. Their relationship has everything, from an awkward first love, the disapproving parent, and heated arguments as the relationship gets strained under the pressure of both prophecy and war.

I really enjoyed this book and do highly recommend it. If you’re a fan of mythology, or a fan of romance, this book holds up as a fantastic read.

achilles

 

Author: Madeline Miller

Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Song-Achilles-Madeline-Miller/dp/1408821982

 

Kit

 

People Are Making Apocalypse Jokes Like There’s No Tomorrow

Alex watches too much TV and then thinks about it for longer than is healthy.

Picture the scene: A man kneels in the rubble of a broken future, surrounded by the shattered remains of once towering monuments to progress. Crumpled wrecks of hover-cars litter the streets of this sprawling metropolis. The guttural roar of hordes of re-animated, radioactive, cannibal corpses can be heard echoing in the distance. The man is dishevelled and wearing the tattered remnants of a futuristic jumpsuit, he clutches a bloodied child’s cap with an antenna on top to his chest and repeatedly whispers “His boy Elroy… His boy Elroy…” to himself whilst rocking back and forth.

This would be the opening scene of The Jetsons if it were rebooted today, as our thirst for all things post-apocalyptic is seemingly as unquenchable as a zombie’s hunger for delicious brains. This is by no means a complaint; I love a good post-apocalyptic setting in any entertainment format and this version of the Jetsons would be way better than the disturbingly pristine and non-multicultural future shown in the original. It is interesting though that the list of titles set in one wasteland/ post-apocalyptic world or other is an exceptionally long one at the moment, so the question is: Why are we so keen to see all that we know in ruins?

Visions of the future are a cornerstone of science fiction and have always been a reflection of how we see ourselves in the present, so with all this apocalypsing going on clearly we don’t think a whole lot of ourselves at the moment. Over the course of a century due to the effects of countless wars both hot and cold and an ever expanding and increasingly downbeat media culture our view of the future has changed radically; going from the outlandish and exotic visions of the Victorian age, through the utopian, swiftly into the dystopian and finally into our despondent apocalyptic certainty. Even a dystopian future dictatorship is too much to hope for today, as being constantly hammered by news coverage of the worst humanity has to offer and the burgeoning wealth of evidence that we have pretty much ruined the planet has drained us of what little hope we had.  Scary stories of the evil that men do sell papers and get precious mouse clicks but they leave us fairly certain that this whole sorry business will come crashing down within the hour leaving us scrabbling in the dirt wishing we’d paid more attention to Ray Mears. The future is no longer bright because we no longer feel we deserve it, perhaps we don’t and should hurry up and invent some sexy Cylons to destroy us.

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The second element to the popularity of the apocalypse is pure escapism. Our lives for the most part are mundane, easy and fairly rigidly structured; we work, we get drunk and moan about work, we wish we had done something more significant with our lives. Rinse and repeat. It is therefore unsurprising that a world without the structures that dominate our existence, in which there would be no need to read job adverts that dress mindless drone work up as something equating to Secretary-General of the U.N. or to reply with the soul destroyingly up-beat set of lies we call a CV ever again, is immensely attractive. A post-apocalyptic CV would be a good read though “I hunter-gather well as part of a group, I bring a can-do attitude to the murder and pillage of rival groups and I have a great deal of experience in the manufacture of homemade weaponry/ jewellery inc. ears on strings. Thank you for considering me for a role within your proto-society.”

A return to nature stripped of all our creature comforts and annoying bureaucracy has always been an appealing fantasy but fails to account for poor physical condition and complete lack of wilderness skills, let’s be honest a management consultant from Slough is not going to turn into some badass Chuck Norris-esque survivalist hero overnight. Suddenly becoming a brilliant woodsman is not the full extent of the fantasy though, both before and after an apocalyptic event humanity as a whole may act like a bunch of jerks but we still have some faith in the decency of the individual. The brilliant Walking Dead and astonishing The Last of Us are excellent examples of this key element of our apocalypse fetish, whilst the whole world might go to hell we are inherently good people and would manage to hold on to at least shreds of our humanity in the grey moral quagmire of a world without structure. The post-apocalyptic hero is the embodiment of our schizophrenic view of humanity, in broad terms humanity is a blight on the world and should probably be gotten rid of but on an individual level people are generally pretty decent and deserve to survive (except those who leave passive-aggressive notes). We hope that when faced with great adversity we would be brave and compassionate. However I doubt that we behave as paradigms of humanity in our daily lives, so it is perhaps depressing that it would take the end of the world to bring out the good person we hope resides in us somewhere.

Guilt perhaps also plays a part in our world ending desires. Our grandparents and great-grandparents faced war on a scale that is hard for us to imagine, our parents lived through the cold war and its constant nuclear paranoia, many people in the world at the moment face hardship we will never experience even a smidgeon of, the most devastating thing that will happen to most of us today is the internet not working briefly and we’ll still get irrationally angry about it. The wasteland would provide us not only with an escape from every day boredom and people who leave notes but also the chance to prove our worth as humans or at the very least to find out what we’re really made of.

We may continually envision the destruction of our future world in cathartic penance for the wrongs of our present one, or wish it would all end because life is monotonous, but our apocalyptic visions are not entirely without hope. In fact the very essence of every post-apocalyptic story is hope; after whatever monumentally stupid human action or act of nature destroys our world, where nothing should survive, there will somehow against all the odds still be humans left to continue being jerks to one-another. If that’s not hope for the future I don’t know what is. So get your pip-boys ready, keep your ears peeled for super mutants and pack your moral compass as it doesn’t look like we’re done working out our issues in the wasteland just yet.

 

Wasteland Essentials:

Film: A Boy and His Dog (1975)

Game: Fallout 3

Book: World War Z (Max Brooks)

TV: The Walking Dead (2010-)

 

Alex

Comic Review – Godzilla: Cataclysm #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

This week was expensive. Urgh. So I decided to review the first issue of the new Godzilla: Cataclysm series, written by Cullen Bunn, art from Dave Wachter and letters by Chris Mowry, published by IDW. This being the King of the Monsters 60th anniversary, and what with a fairly successful film out this year from Legendary (we reviewed it a couple of months ago, relatively spoiler free, in this episode of the Weekly Rapture podcast), it seemed worthwhile picking up, especially as I already enjoy Bunn’s writing anyway. I’ve always been particularly interested in Godzilla and kaiju films in general. They manage to be big, exciting and (on the surface) dumb while often having an intelligent underlying theme. Unfortunately, the last two outings for Godzilla on the big screen have been somewhat lacking. The 1998 film is pretty terrible, completely missing anything that made the films great (though I seem to remember really liking it at the time. I was 10. Plus that Jamiroquai track was great. You know it was. Don’t lie), and this year’s was only great for about 10 minutes total, the rest was fairly average if not dull.

Cataclysm picks up nearly twenty years after the destruction of ‘the world that was’, where human civilisation has been all but extinguished by the dozens of kaiju appearing all over the world, both through collateral damage as a part of their own fighting, or through directly being targeted by these ferocious leviathans. Humanity was brought to  the brink in this age of monsters, but then almost as soon as they turned up they disappeared again. We are shown this in the form of an old man’s dream, remembering the events that led to the world being as it is now: crumbling overgrown cities, shanty towns full of the survivors and hunter-gatherer groups heading into the city ruins for supply runs. No one has seen a kaiju for decades, to the extent that there are those that no longer believe them. It is reflected that they have been allowed to become myth and legend. Gods and devils as part of a new mythology. But this old man (I don’t think he is given a name…) knows better, because he is one of the few still around that actually remembers it all happening, and he is convinced that the monsters will return. His grandson Arata isn’t convinced, and he heads out with his friend Shiori (and a bunch of nameless other characters destined to die) into the city to look for supplies for their village. Things go sideways pretty quickly, as you would expect, and by the end of the issue we see that Arata’s grandfather was right. For whatever reason, the kaiju are coming back. And the titular character is one of them.

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It is early days for the story yet, and I’d like to see where it is going to go besides awesome giant monster throw downs and the potential clean up of the rest of humanity through the ancient art of stomps and nuclear breath, but this is a strong first issue. The dream/nightmare/memory sequence at the start is a nice exposition device to show us how we got to the world now. Bunn’s script is solid, with none of the dialogue seeming wasted, though the lack of names for ancillary characters basically made them red shirts in my eyes – doomed from the start. The musings about where our myths and religions come from at the start was especially interesting. The art is excellent. The bleak, ruined cityscape near the village looks chilling, with the overgrown metropolis the group walks through (complete with giant footprint they walk straight over) adding to the impending doom. The insect creatures Wachter draws look terrifying, with their dripping mandibles and sharp legs, and they are around just long enough to make the impact of something even worse killing them seem all the more scary. The best piece though is the image above, from the old man’s flashback dream at the start of the issue, with Godzilla, Anguirus, Mothra and King Ghidorah brawling in the middle of a city, and military jets pointlessly trying to have any impact on the fight.

A good start to what I hope will be an interesting story, and the art is particularly strong. I may be biased because I like this brand of fiction, but it is a bleak read that manages to be fun at the same time. Check it out at your local comic book shop, or on your digital media doohicky, before the cataclysm happens, destroying all the shops and probably the infrastructure for digital comics too.

Score: 8 Kaiju out of 10